Pacific Baza

Aviceda subcristata

The Pacific Baza is easily distinguished from other Raptors by the crest on the back of its head,  (more like an over grown crested Pigeon!)  This quiet, small and unobtrusive hunter of the tree tops live along the edges of eucalypt and rainforests, particularly the galleries of trees lining watercourses. They patrol the outer foliage, weaving through and around tree crowns, snatching their food from the leaves. Their food consists of grubs, frogs, reptiles, small mice, invertebrates and stick insects. Sometimes they crash into the foliage, presumably to disturb their prey, and they have been seen hanging upside down on branches, searching for food. Some insects are even caught in mid air, the birds wheeling and somersaulting to catch them.

 Found mainly in coastal north western Australia from Fitzroy River to McArthur River NT, around Gulf of Carpentaria and in the east from Cape York Peninsula all the way south to a couple of hundred kilometres below Sydney and inland to the western fringes of the Great Dividing Range. . Their flight is slow and leisurely, flapping and gliding on broad rounded wings, allowing them to manoeuvre easily and acrobatically. The Pacific Baza is diurnal and can hunt at any time of the day, but do so mainly through the morning and later afternoon.

Their upper body is grey-blue tinged brown on backs of shoulders, head darker with lighter face and crest is black, wings broad and rounded, flight feathers mid to dark blue-grey with darker bars, tail dark blue-grey, throat and upper breast mid-grey, chin lighter, under belly stripped cream and black-brown bar, eye distinct golden yellow and skin around eye green-yellow with blue tinge, beak black, feet pale grey, claws dusky grey. Chicks are born covered in whitish down.

  Although they can be observed gathering in groups of up to 9, perhaps in family groups, Bazas are rather solitary birds, even though they are rather sedentary and probably permanently paired, they consort closely with their mates in breeding time. Nesting time is heralded by spectacular aerial displays, the pair soar and circle often to considerable heights, swooping and tumbling while calling loudly, plunging down then drawing up with vigorous flapping to somersault and roll over in mid-air.

A hoarsely whistled double call wee-choo or ee-chu commonly heard during breeding months September – March, other calls include shorts whistles and trails.

  Both male and female share not only the nest building but also incubation, the brooding and feeding of their young. The nest is a flimsy slightly cupped structure of sticks, lined with twigs and a layer of green leaves approx. 280 – 380 mm across and 120-200 mm deep and may be used for more than one season. Its usually built in a horizontal limb no lower than 15 – 30 metres above the ground. Round-oval eggs range from 2-3 rarely up to 5 and are faint sheen plain white with blue tinge occasionally stained and blotched about 43 x 34 mm. Both parents taking turns to incubate the eggs for about 33 days until the chicks hatch. As the young grow the female spends much more time attending the nest while the male concentrates on hunting. She brings fresh eucalypt leaves to the nest, cleans away all the refuse and often intercepts food brought by the male, dismembering it and passing it to the young herself. The young fledge and leave the nest in 32 – 35 days.  Both parents protect the nest raising their crests in threat or swooping in attack to any predators.

Reference: Field Guide to the Birds Of Australia

    Simpson & Day

    Every Australian Bird Illustrated, Rigby

    Norma Hendersons  Aust.Bird Rehab. Manual, Wild bird Rescue 

    Complete Book of Aust. Birds  by Readers Digest.